C-Ko Horror Anime Show
At this year’s A-Kon I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a live audience for the first time in ages. In addition to getting me to think about naked chicks cavorting around in public (Because that’s exactly what went down.), seeing the movie got me thinking about whether there’s an anime movie or the like that’s similar to Rocky Horror.
To my knowledge there aren’t any anime movies or OAVs or TV series that have the same sort of live audience participation you see in Rocky Horror. That makes sense since all of that was born out of the midnight showings of the movie from the late 70’s and early 80’s. What came to mind was whether there was an anime that was as campy and “bad” as Rocky Horror that was embraced by fandom as something to be celebrated and enjoyed largely because of its campiness and “badness.”
For the life of me I couldn’t think of anything along those lines.
I look at series like Code Geass and Death Note as the height of anime camp. The way in which the characters behave in each series is so over the top and flamboyant that it’s hard to take people like Lelouch and Light seriously. Despite this, these series play everything straight-faced and seriously, and because of this I find both series to be awesomely campy and hilarious. Neither one is a personal favorite, but I enjoy them on this level.
The catch is that I’m in a tiny minority when it comes to that point of view. Both series have fans that take them as serious as people take the likes of Grave of the Fireflies, Rainbow, and other deathly serious anime series. So as much as I’d like to celebrate Death Note and Code Geass as anime camp classics, both of them have been “claimed” by fandom in a completely different manner.
For the most part, camp seems to be something that anime fandom (and creators) avoid. I don’t think it’s a cultural thing or anything like that. Japan’s the country from which shit like Hard Gay came from, so there’s some facet of the mindset that “gets” camp. And there has to be some degree of love for cheesiness with the affection many fans have for tokukatsu shows like Kamen Rider and the franchise that gave birth to Power Rangers. But that isn’t anime.
The closest I’ve seen an anime reach this level of camp and see fandom react to it in kind was with Umineko, but I think a lot of the fan’s reaction had to do with the poor production values and irritation with what they felt was a poor translation from visual novel to anime. It was more along the lines of cynical snark than genuinely love for what it was. Again, I was loving it on the same level I loved Death Note and Code Geass while the rest of fandom was digging on it because they took the visual novels seriously or they were ragging on it for its flaws.
Over the A-Kon weekend, I also happened to catch Project A-Ko during their classic anime festival. While I was watching it I realized that the movie hit many of the same points that Rocky Horror does. They’re both affectionate parodies of genres (Rocky rifts on 50’s sci-fi, musicals, and the like, A-Ko does it to popular anime of the early 80’s.), both have ridiculous, over the top characters, both end with alien invasions of sorts, and both have a bunch of sexually-confused characters (some of whom crossdress).
Project A-Ko may very well have what it takes to be a camp classic in anime fandom if it got some degree of attention and more fans watched it outside of us old dudes that have loved it since it came out on VHS in the 90’s. Don’t think that’ll ever happen, since so many anime fans are a part of the “cult of the new” and only care about processing whatever happens to be the latest and greatest, but a dude can dream that one of his favorite anime series gets some props.
Also: a lot of the old school hentai series, like Urotsukidoji and Bible Black, would make for some great camp fodder. Especially with the horrific dub I remember from Doji. I should track that down sometime soon and see if it’s as awesomely bad as I remember it being.
Also Also: I’m sure someone better versed in this stuff can come up with other anime series that’d fall under the “camp” banner. By all means add to the list or call me out for being an idiot for not including something.